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Blaine Manor budget supporters rally

County nursing home projects far smaller loss in 2002

Express Staff Writer

Reducing expenses by 10 percent and increasing revenues by 11 percent will help improve the dismal financial record of the county’s only skilled-care nursing home, says Gail Goglia, the home’s director.

With county taxpayers subsidizing the home’s loss this year of $649,121, the facility is in danger of being closed. But Goglia believes those losses can be reduced by 45 percent next year to $354,321.

Goglia’s proposal was the big news last week, when dozens of county departments pitched their fiscal year 2002 budget requests to the Blaine County Commission. Public hearings on the county’s approximately $13 million tentative overall budget begin in early August with the final budget to be set in September.

Nearly all of last week’s preliminary sessions attracted practically no attention from the public. But on Wednesday afternoon, about 50 people showed up to voice their support for Blaine Manor and encourage the commission to approve Goglia’s request.

Next year, she projects, the home will earn $1.2 million in revenues from Medicare, Medicaid and other fees while spending $1.57 million.

To realize bigger revenues, the home’s room rates would increase by 5 percent. The projected revenue is also based on assumptions that an average of 22 residents will live at the home. That number is slightly higher than the census of this year when several temporary factors limited new enrollments, said Goglia. Also assumed is a small, Congress-mandated increase in the amount of money Blaine Manor gets from Medicare.

Blaine Manor’s expenses should decrease in 2002 because the home won’t have the $100,000 in startup costs it had this year when it separated from St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center. Expenses would also be reduced by rescheduling staff hours and decreasing the level of staff health insurance.

After presenting those numbers, Goglia told the group, which was packed into the old Blaine County Courthouse meeting room, "I can assure you everything we’ve looked at [cutting] will have no impact on the level of care" at Blaine Manor.

The commissioners did not say whether they supported Goglia’s proposal. That announcement will happen by Aug. 6 when the commission sets the tentative county budget. Instead, they spoke generally about the home’s future.

Commissioner Dennis Wright said his mother is 82, so he is sympathetic to the needs of the elderly. But, he said, taxpayers are being asked to spend too much money to support the home’s 22 or so residents.

"What I want you to understand is that’s why some of us have been looking at a different way," he said.

Commission chair Mary Ann Mix said she is working with a non-profit group to expand the 25-bed facility to include 30 new assisted-living beds and an additional five or six skilled-care beds. An expansion could help finances. But Mix refused to elaborate on the plan, she said, because it might not work out.

Commissioner Sarah Michael illustrated the difficulty of the decision the commission must make.

She said county taxpayers could end up subsidizing each of Blaine Manor’s 22 residents to the tune of $18,000 next year.

"What general programs do we cut?" she asked. "Because there’s a finite amount of revenue we collect."

Though more than a dozen members of the public spoke in support of Blaine Manor, an unidentified man perhaps summed up the group’s overall sentiment:

"We in Blaine County pay taxes to take care of the children so they’ll have an education," he said. "We should have the same attitude when it comes to taking care of our elderly."

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.